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Home Secretary denies alleged insult amidst heated exchange in Commons

Accusations of derogatory remarks made by Home Secretary James Cleverly towards Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s constituency spark controversy in the House of Commons.

Home Secretary James Cleverly faces allegations of referring to Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s northeast constituency as a “s***hole.” The claim emerged as Mr. Cunningham confronted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on child poverty levels in his area.

Despite Mr. Cleverly’s denial through a spokesman, the Labour MP insists that the audio evidence supports his accusation. Making a point of order later in the Commons, Mr. Cunningham declared, “He was seen and heard to say: ‘Because it’s a s***hole.’” The Home Secretary’s alleged comment came amid a heated exchange over the government’s efforts to address child poverty.

Mr. Cleverly’s spokesperson vehemently denied the accusation, stating, “He did not say that, and would not. He’s disappointed people would accuse him of doing so.” The spokesperson’s response emphasises the Home Secretary’s dismay at being implicated in such a controversy.

This incident follows closely on the heels of another controversy involving Mr. Cleverly, who recently declined to deny using an expletive to describe Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda deportation policy. The alleged use of strong language against government policies adds fuel to the fire of criticism against the Home Secretary.

Labour MP Alex Cunningham, unsatisfied with the denial, demanded an apology from the Home Secretary during a subsequent Commons session. Expressing his discontent, he said, “There is no doubt that these comments shame the home secretary, this rotten government, and the Tory party. He is clearly unfit for his high office.”

Interestingly, it appears that Mr. Cleverly has chosen not to file a complaint against Mr. Cunningham’s accusation. The Labour MP, in turn, sought guidance from Commons authorities on securing an apology for the alleged insult.

Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing, addressing the issue, acknowledged the difficulty of discerning comments in the bustling atmosphere of PMQs. While she expressed understanding for Mr. Cunningham’s concern, she refrained from making a definitive judgement on whether the alleged words were used.

The exchange at PMQs that led to these allegations began with Mr. Cunningham questioning the Prime Minister on child poverty in his constituency. Rishi Sunak defended the government’s actions, leading to a back-and-forth with the Labour MP, who contested the accuracy of the Prime Minister’s claims.

As the controversy unfolds, it remains to be seen whether the audio evidence will play a decisive role in settling the dispute and whether Mr. Cleverly will address the accusations directly in the coming days. The incident underscores the challenges of maintaining decorum in the highly charged atmosphere of parliamentary debates.

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